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Visualizing 100,000 Stars In Chrome

phlegmofdiscontent Good try, but not as good as Celestia (68 comments)

I played around with it a bit, but it seems to be somewhat lacking compared to Celestia, which does many of the same things and more. A couple gripes: Sirius was listed as Alpha Cassiopeiae, though it's Bayer designation is Alpha Canis Majoris. Also, it seems to be lacking nearly all of the red dwarfs that make up the majority of the solar neighborhood. Seriously? No Wolf 359?

about a year and a half ago

All of Nate Silver's State-Level Polling Predictions Proved True

phlegmofdiscontent Models (576 comments)

Ok, so he predicted the outcomes of two elections. A laudable achievement, to be sure. However, as the collapse of the financial system (due in part to exotic instruments) showed us, a model works until it doesn't.

about a year and a half ago

US Court Sides With Gene Patents

phlegmofdiscontent Re:promising future treatment (255 comments)

So they seem to be saying that a purified sequence of nucleotides is fundamentally different than that same sequence found within a chromosome. To me, that seems rather like saying one could patent benzene (or a short polymer) because you can purify it from crude oil and it is fundamentally different than if you had a beaker full of crude oil. More abstractly, it's like saying you can patent a paragraph from a book because it's fundamentally different than the paragraph in the context of a book. Fair use, anyone?

Personally, I think this is a terrible decision. Now, if they had a particular METHOD for purifying and replicating this sequence, they would have a valid patent. Heck, if the introns that they stick onto these sequences are proprietary, they could patent THOSE as well. Otherwise, they really are just patenting something that occurs in nature.

about 2 years ago

Existing Solar Tech Could Power Entire US, Says NREL

phlegmofdiscontent Their assumptions are way too broad (589 comments)

FYI, the total power output of the world is only about 2500 GW, as opposed to their "potential" energy generation estimate of 200,000 GW, which made me start to question this. Specifically, I checked into their assumptions regarding rural power generation. They quote a potential area for use in solar power generation in Texas of around 450,000 km^2. The total area of the state is about 700,000 km^2. So, unless I'm misreading, they would propose to cover roughly 64% of the entire state in solar panels. That's simply not feasible, given that much of the land is used for things like crops, improvements, wilderness, etc.

This isn't to say that I don't believe that solar power is a viable alternative, but the quoted numbers in this study just don't seem to add up.

about 2 years ago

The 147 Corporations Controlling Most of the Global Economy

phlegmofdiscontent many of those companies... (572 comments)

Are simply investment firms, such as T. Rowe Price, Northern Trust, or Depository Trust Company. They're interconnected and large, but the holdings they have generally do not confer any amount of control (you generally need to hold at least 10% of a given firm to get representation on the board of directors). Likewise, their holdings are generally in name only as nominees since they are trusts or mutual funds. In other words, many of these companies appear big, but they're really just investing YOUR money without any say in the day-to-day operations of the companies in which they've invested.

more than 2 years ago

8 Grams of Thorium Could Replace Gasoline In Cars

phlegmofdiscontent who needs flying cars? (937 comments)

I've been wanting a nuclear-powered car for years and I may get my wish! Granted, it's not fission or fusion, but still a cool concept.

more than 2 years ago

PayPal Co-Founder Gives Out $100,000 To Not Go To College

phlegmofdiscontent irresponsible (418 comments)

There's one thing I've learned after having borrowed and spent nearly $100,000 to get an MBA; about 90% of new companies fail within 5 years. So, if he's spending $2 million to allow 20 semi-educated people to try to start new companies, maybe 2 will succeed. Still, it's an interesting experiment.

more than 3 years ago

Humoralistically, I lean toward ...

phlegmofdiscontent Re:phlegm! (114 comments)

Hey! Phlegm is awesome!

more than 3 years ago

The Simpsons Reviewed For Unsuitable Nuclear Jokes

phlegmofdiscontent great episode (374 comments)

I loved "The City of New York vs Homer Simpson". Great episode even after 9/11.

more than 3 years ago

Friends Don't Let Geek Friends Work In Finance

phlegmofdiscontent not just an offer one can't refuse (732 comments)

Sure, the big investment banks may be "luring" some engineers into finance, but I think the biggest problem is systemic. Speaking as someone who has moved from physics to finance, I can say that there simply aren't enough opportunities for bright engineers and scientists. For me, it was a number of factors, but I found that finance had ways of thinking that were similar to physics, so the leap wasn't particularly hard. The real deciding point for me, though, was seeing a friend of mine who had a PhD in physics. He was brilliant, doing basic research on spintronics, but he was also working for peanuts and could expect to do so for nearly a decade. Not that money is everything, but it is certainly necessary to pay for things like rent, food, and beer. The biggest problem, it seems to me, is that there aren't nearly enough opportunities for scientists and engineers in this country and they aren't paid nearly enough for all of the hard work they do. This is not a new trend. This country is basically throwing away talent because basic research is severely undervalued. See also the NSF and NASA and how their budgets get treated by Congress.

more than 3 years ago

Facebook's Revenues Leaked

phlegmofdiscontent Valuation analysis (295 comments)

I just took a class on this kind of thing. Basically, you take the forcasted cash flows and discount appropriately depending on your required rate of return. We only have one data point, so it's very difficult to really project, but given an approximate cash flow of $500 million and a valuation of about $50 billion, the difference between Goldman's required rate of return and Facebook's growth rate is about 1%. From this, I can deduce that Goldman Sachs either thinks Facebook is a very safe investment or a high-growth company or both. In my opinion, you can only have one or the other and my gut feeling is that they overpaid. On the other hand, I'm just one guy with one data point. They have a ton of quants analyzing this thing, so you can take that how you will.

more than 3 years ago

The Guardian's Complicated Relationship With Julian Assange

phlegmofdiscontent pot, meet kettle (237 comments)

'nuff said

more than 3 years ago

Best Open Source Genealogy Software?

phlegmofdiscontent Software or data? (292 comments)

I've been researching my genealogy for almost a decade at this point. It's a lot of work, but I find it fun and enlightening.

Now, there are really two questions here. First, software. There are many different programs out there, the one that I have the most experience with is Legacy. The free version is quite powerful, even if it's closed source.

The second question that wasn't really asked though is regarding the data. You could have the best genealogy software in the world, but it's useless without the data. I'm afraid that simply adding you, your parents, and your grandparents isn't going to do much for you, no matter the website or software. Part of the problem is that the most useful source of information for ancestry, census records, isn't available for any census later than 1930 in the U.S. due to privacy concerns. Most likely, you'll have to find some great-grandparents (ask your parents or grandparents about them) and from there it's relatively easy to bootstrap your family tree back to the 1850s. Unfortunately, the most complete census records are found on, which is a pay site of course, but there are so many other records that they have that it can be worth it to pay the monthly fee (I do). In addition to that, you can also piggyback on other peoples' research through their community.

If you don't feel like paying, there are plenty of other sites out there with free data and the number grows constantly. is probably the best. Rootsweb (owned by Ancestry) is also free and has the World Connect function that will show you family trees (secondary sources). Be persistent. There are plenty of sources out there.

more than 3 years ago

Consumer Reports Gives AT&T Lowest US Carrier Rank

phlegmofdiscontent Re:Dropped call rate of 0.1%?! (187 comments)

From TFA,

"The GWS drive tests also revealed that 98.59 percent of voice calls connected over the AT&T network nationwide are completed without interruption. That's a difference of about one-tenth of one percentage point, or one call in 1,000, from the only higher score in the industry."

So no, they do not drop only 1 out of 1000 calls, they drop more like 15 out of 1000 calls.

Not that my anecdotal evidence has any weight, but I personally experience more like a 5 to 10% dropped call rate with AT&T (one time I was dropped 4 times in a half hour).

more than 3 years ago

Consumer Reports Gives AT&T Lowest US Carrier Rank

phlegmofdiscontent Re:Response (187 comments)

I don't know where AT&T gets their numbers. I don't have any hard statistics, but as a regular iPhone user, I've experienced a 5-10% dropped call rate, times when even texts wouldn't be sent, and depending on where I am in this large metropolitan area I call home, download speeds of 0.03 Mbps (though right now I'm getting 2.12 Mbps down and 0.180 Mbps up). I'm certainly not impressed with AT&T's network. On the other hand, Verizon's customer service was what prompted me to switch in the first place.

more than 3 years ago

Is the ISS Really Worth $100 Billion?

phlegmofdiscontent AMS (503 comments)

Perhaps this helps justify the cost.

It's basic physics, maybe not quite on the scale of the LHC, maybe not quite as useful as the HST has been, but still worthwhile. Yes, $100 billion is a lot to spend if this was the sole reason for its existence, but the $100 billion is a sunk cost at this point and the AMS certainly helps with the return on that investment.

On the other hand, $100 billion is a lot of investment that could have been put into other science projects. I've begun to question the point of NASA. Ideally, they would be the forefront of technological demonstrations. They would take risks, some of which wouldn't work but would lead the way for private industries to succeed. They would fund basic science probes such as Cassini or the Mars rovers, which no private company is going to fund at this point but which produce significant returns. The NASA I envision is far from reality and I don't know how it can get from here to there.

Is $100 billion worth an orbiting apartment? Not really. Is it worth a $1 trillion space tourism/commerce industry 10 to 15 years from now? Definitely. Let's just hope that comes to fruition.

more than 3 years ago

TSA To Make Pat-Downs More Embarrassing To Encourage Scanner Use

phlegmofdiscontent Re:doesn't make sense (642 comments)

Exploiting a hole of some sort is exactly what the author mentioned a number of times.

more than 3 years ago

All Your Stonehenge Photos Are Belong To England

phlegmofdiscontent Where's my cut? (347 comments)

A lot of my ancestors were from England. Don't I deserve a cut of England's national heritage?

more than 3 years ago

Modeling a White Hole With Your Kitchen Sink

phlegmofdiscontent Re:Um, No (104 comments)

I think this just illustrates the elegance of the universe. For many different scales, the same mathematics get reused, whether it's a theoretical white hole or a hydraulic jump in a kitchen sink. Another example which may be similar is the edge of our solar system, the heliopause. In a very similar way, high-speed solar wind particles prevent a lot of particles from outside from entering the inner solar system. Like the hydraulic jump in a kitchen sink, the heliopause is where the speed of the outgoing particles reaches the speed of sound of the medium in which it is traveling.

more than 3 years ago

Astronaut Sues Dido For Album Cover

phlegmofdiscontent That's McCandless? (264 comments)

I could have sworn that was Buzz Aldrin....

more than 3 years ago


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